Fourth Amendment

Obama Wants a Look at Your Bank Account

The Obama regime is drawing up final plans to create a massive database and give access to it to government agencies. What will be in this new database?:

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.

The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.

I guess due process and asking a judge for a warrant to get this information is apparently a thing of the past in this new “changed” America. With the continuing reckless disregard of the Constitution and traditional American liberties by the Obama regime, at this point the University of Chicago should offer full refunds to anyone who ever took a Constitutional law class taught by Barack Obama. But I digress.

The database is compiled by banks and other financial institutions who report “suspicious financial activity” to the Treasury Department:

Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of “suspicious customer activity,” such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).The Federal Bureau of Investigation already has full access to the database.

DNA and Doctrine in the Supreme Court

Written by Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

This week, the Supreme Court considered whether collecting DNA from an arrestee was an unreasonable Fourth Amendment search.

Or at least that would have been a good way for the Court to frame the question.

Instead, much of the oral argument in Maryland v. King dealt with the question whether swabbing the cheek of an arrestee to take a DNA sample upsets one’s reasonable expectations of privacy. The “reasonable expectation of privacy” test is doctrine that arose from Justice Harlan’s concurrence in Katz v. United States. The test asks whether a person claiming the Fourth Amendment’s protections had a subjective expectation of privacy and whether it is “one that society is prepared to recognize as ‘reasonable.’”

The government’s case rests on that framing, which is why Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben began his argument by saying that arrestees are “on the gateway into the criminal justice system. They are no longer like free citizens who are wandering around on the streets retaining full impact Fourth Amendment rights. The arrest itself substantially reduces the individual’s expectation of privacy.”

It’s true that an arrestee has his privacy and other liberties invaded various ways. What problem is it if a bit of DNA is collected at the same time? It’s pretty much like finger printing, the argument goes…

Supreme Court Rejects Lawsuit Against FISA

James Earle Fraser's statue The Authority of Law, which sits on the west side of the United States Supreme Court building, on the south side of the main entrance stairs.

American liberty took one more punch to the gut yesterday when the Supreme Court decided that Americans can’t sue the government’s spy machine in court:

A sharply-divided Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out an attempt by U.S. citizens to challenge the expansion of a surveillance law used to monitor conversations of foreign spies and terrorist suspects.

With a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that a group of American lawyers, journalists and organizations can’t sue to challenge the 2008 expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) because they can’t prove that the government will monitor their conversations along with those of potential foreign terrorist and intelligence targets.

The outcome was the first in the current Supreme Court term to divide along ideological lines, with the conservative justices prevailing.

Justices “have been reluctant to endorse standing theories that require guesswork,” said Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote for the court’s majority.

Oregon legislators ignore Fourth Amendment to target gun owners

assault weapons

If state legislators in Oregon have their way, certain gun owners will be subject to warrantless searches by police. That’s right, legislators in these two states have proposed bills that would rob these individuals of their rights simply because they happen to own an “assault weapon.”

Last week, I noted that legislators in Washington had proposed a bill that would allow for warrantless searches of gun owners who happen to own an “assault weapon.” That specific part was eventually removed after it was pointed out to the bill’s backers, who had apparently not taken it upon themsevles to read what they were proposing.

In Oregon, a group of Democrats have proposed new regulations (SB 3200) that limits the number of “assault weapons” a person may own and requires registration of these aribtrarily defined firearms within 120 days of the law going into effect. What’s more, the legislation states in Section 5 that the Department of State Police “may conduct inspections of registered owners of assault weapons and large capacity magazines to ensure compliance with the storage requirements of Section 4.” Those “storage requirements,” however, aren’t made clear.

That’s pretty concerning. Gun owners in the Beaver State would be targets for warrantless searches, which are explicity prohibited under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 9 of the Oregon Constitution.

Obama set to bring back CISPA via executive fiat

cyber security

Don’t look now, folks, but the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is making a comeback thanks to President Barack Obama.

Between the end of 2011 and early 2012, online activists were able to raise a firestorm over legislation — Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and CISPA — that would have severely diminished Internet privacy. Thanks to the outcry, all three bills eventually died.

According to a report yesterday from The Hill, President Obama will on Wednesday sign an executive order — completely bypassing Congress, which is becoming an all too familar pattern with this White House — that will implement cybersecurity measures from against attack on the United States:

The White House is poised to release an executive order aimed at thwarting cyberattacks against critical infrastructure on Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter told The Hill.

The highly anticipated directive from President Obama is expected to be released at a briefing Wednesday morning at the U.S. Department of Commerce, where senior administration officials will provide an update about cybersecurity policy.

The executive order would establish a voluntary program in which companies operating critical infrastructure would elect to meet cybersecurity best practices and standards crafted, in part, by the government.

Body scanners will be removed from airports

full-body scanners

Over the last few years, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has taken well deserved heat for its use of naked full-body scanners in airports across the country. Despite concerns expressed by privacy advocates, the TSA fear-mongered by insisting that the screening procedure was necessary due to the threat of terrorism.

But after being unable to produce a software to settle privacy concerns, the TSA announced today that they will pull the naked body scanners out of airports:

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration will remove airport body scanners that privacy advocates likened to strip searches after OSI Systems Inc. (OSIS) couldn’t write software to make passenger images less revealing.

TSA will end a $5 million contract with OSI’s Rapiscan unit for the software after Administrator John Pistole concluded the company couldn’t meet a congressional deadline to produce generic passenger images, agency officials said in interviews.
“It became clear to TSA they would be unable to meet our timeline,” Waters said. “As a result of that, we terminated the contract for the convenience of the government.”

Cato Institute: Rushed FISA debate a disservice to Americans

In the waning days of 2012, the United States Senate pushed through renewal of FISA for another five years. As privacy advocates in the chambers sought to improve the legislation with sensible amendments to address privacy concerns, others, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), fear-mongered or otherwised avoided addressing tough questions about how FISA had been used to collect data on innocent and unassuming Americans.

In a new video from the Cato Institute, Julian Sanchez explains — with some video of privacy advocates in the Senate — why the debate over FISA deserves a more in-depth, serious discussion:

Mike Lee: “We can’t abandon constitutional rights for temporary security”

See Video

During the debate over re-authorization of FISA warrantless wiretapping practices, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) articulately defended the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.

So much for the Fourth Amendment: Senate passes FISA and Obama will sign it

You mad, bro?

The Senate passed the FISA re-authorization bill this morning:

The Senate on Friday approved a bill reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in a 73-23 vote.

The bill will extend for five years the ability of U.S. intelligence authorities to conduct surveillance of suspected terrorists overseas without first getting permission from a court.

The House already approved the legislation, meaning the Senate vote will send the bill to President Obama’s desk. The president is expected to sign the bill.

You can see how your Senators voted here.

FISA was set to expire at the end of the year, so the rush to renew it lead to some bipartisan fear-mongering from some members of the Senate. Perhaps the only positive was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) allowed for debate on reasonable, substantive amendments to the bill, though none of them passed. Some members, including Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), didn’t want any debate on amendments that would have enhanced the privacy of Americans or require some transparency from the Obama Administration on how FISA is being used.

The Fourth Amendment Protection Act, offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), would have protected Americans against warrantless searches of their cell phone records and other similar third-party service providers. This amendment was rejected in a 79 to 12 vote.

Saxby Chambliss: Shut up and pass FISA


Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who has come under fire recently for his support of increased tax revenues, is now sounding off on the upcoming reauthorization vote for FISA. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to allow at least some amendments, some of which would protect the privacy of Americans, to be voted on by the chamber before the bill is pushed forward for a final vote.

Unfortunately, Chambliss believes that no votes on these amendments are necessary and that Reid should just pass the bill, apparently with no questions asked:

Senator Saxby Chambliss, apparently with no regard to the Constitution or the privacy of the public he’s supposed to represent, has apparently complained that any debate is a waste of time after Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to bring up the issue.

The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.